When you get pregnant, apart from the “growing a human while miraculously continuing everyday life” you also get another superpower. The ability to perfect the “Nod and Smile”. The moment you get those two stripes on the stick the advice seem to come rolling in, whether you asked for it or not. Even though I'm supposed to nod and smile and "take what I need and ignore the rest", I'd like to give some advice on how to give advice.
Surprisingly, after almost 26 weeks of pregnancy, I haven’t killed anyone, I haven’t rolled my eyes at anyone (atleast not to their faces), I’m not as annoyed as I thought I’d be with all the expert advice I’ve received. It made me realize that it’s not the advice-giving that’s annoying, it’s what kind of advice is given and how.
So, here’s how to do it without being murdered.
1. Do you know the pregnant woman?
If yes, continue to number two. If no, shut up. Seriously, it’s as easy as that. Whatever you wanted to tell her, don’t. There is nothing more eerie than a stranger latching onto your belly, groping you and smiling while they do it. If I don’t know you, I’m not going to take advice from you either. I don’t know if you are wanted for child abuse or are one of those cult-people! Unless you can tell my how to raise a rocket scientist or a Mother Theresa, I don’t want to hear it. Chances are somebody close to me will give me the same advice about feedings and routines you just wanted to. Rest assured that I will be okay, without a stranger telling me how to keep this baby alive.
2. Is it relevant?
I remember telling people we’re pregnant and immediately they went into a monologue (practiced, I’m friggin sure of it) about how to get your baby to sleep and how to check for reflux and and and and. I just sat there thinking, could we maybe just back it up a little? You know, with maybe a year or so? I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with reflux-advice when I’m just trying to survive the first trimester. I loved it when I told people I’m feeling like death and they responded with : “ Urgh, I remember that, it is horrible! I drank lemonade the whole time and that helped me.” Do you see what they did there? They gave me advice without forcing their opinions on me, while being relevant. If we are talking about something and you have something to share, by all means share it. But don’t just start giving advice about everything you've learned about sleep training the last 6 years, just because the Almost Mom mentioned diapers. Stick to the topic.
3. Does she need a friend or advice?
This one can be tricky. Either she is not coping at all and you know how to fix it, or she just wants to vent and needs a friend. If you’re not sure, ask: “I can tell you what I did/how I felt when that happened to me if you’d like?” Sometimes I just felt like moaning. The first 17/18 weeks were really tough on me and I didn't always have the energy to act as if I’m coping. Sometimes I just wanted to talk and cry. I didn't need advice. I just needed a friend that listens. I needed someone that made me tea and agrees when I say: “This is not fun.” Some people did this marvelously, I walked away from those visits feeling ten tons lighter, understood and loved. And then some people took this time to tell me “what I should do and don’t worry it will go away”. It made me feel like I’m failing, like I’m being a wimp for not sticking it out. Like it’s soooo easy to just eat ginger and crackers and then your morni…allday sickness will be cured. Nod and smile. And then I made a mental note that I must remember to not tell this person when I’m struggling with the baby,because they are going to make me feel horrible. Just listen, it really is that easy.
4. Does she want to have a child like yours?
I’m just going to let that one settle a little. Does she?
I've already received buckets full of discipline-advice (No, you didn't misunderstood when I said I’m almost 26 weeks pregnant, still pregnant. No baby yet…refer to point two) about how to enforce rules and routines and whatnot. Sometimes I look at the child and think, this mom is a genius. I’m definitely going to remember that. (Just kidding, I’m pregnant, I can’t even remember if I've brushed my teeth this morning.) Sometimes I look at the child and think, okaaaaay, I must remember to do everything opposite to what this mom just said… That sounds mean, maybe I shouldn't judge her, hey? Or maybe she doesn't have to give me advice one something that I didn't ask advice for, especially since I'm still busy growing the nugget …?
5. Don’t start a sentence with “What you should do is...”
The only thing I “should do” is keep my composure and not strangle you with my bare hands. Being a grownup I can pretty much decide for myself what I “should do”. You can give me advice and I can think about it. But don’t tell me what I should do just because it worked for you. You aren't the only one I'm going to speak to during these 9 months. To you it seems obvious that "this is what I should do", while to me you are just number 8 574 of people telling what is the best/right way of doing something. Please let me decide, and don't be angry when I choose differently.
6. Don't scare her intentionally
"Oh my word, it is the worst pain ever, I though I was going to die! I felt like I was being ripped apart." Why would I need to hear that? Why on earth, would you feel like telling me that? I'm aware that it's going to be the worst pain ever, thank you. I'm aware of tearing, stool softeners and why you take them, cracked nipples, maternity pads bigger than a house, aches and pains and stuff that should never happen to the human body. And here's the clincher, even if you do tell me, it's not going to make it easier! It's not as if I'm going to have a pain free labour just because you told me it's pain straight from hell. The only thing you are doing is scaring the living daylights out of me and making it more terrifying. Be honest with me, but try to keep it encouraging! Share because you want to help me, not put me into a fear induced coma.
That's it for now, I hear the advice-mill really gets rolling when you get bigger and closer to the end game, so I'll save part two for then. Until then, just be nice. Listen, help and remember nobody likes a wise-ass.